I find a lot of what I am drawn to in the teaching I do, the experiential work, is to help people make friends with uncertainty, and reframe it as a way of coming alive. Because there are never any guarantees at any point in life. Perhaps it’s more engrained in the American citizen that we feel we ought to know, we ought to be certain, we ought to be in control, we ought to be upbeat, we ought to be smiling, we ought to be sociable. That cultural cast has tremendous power to keep us benumbed and becalmed. So it’s been central to my life and my work to make friends with our despair, to make friends with our pain for the world. And thereby to dignify it and honour it. That is very freeing for people.
By the time some readers see these words, Valentines Day will have become a distant memory. Nevertheless, the entire month of February has been designated American heart month, and for twenty-eight days we have permission to pay attention to the human organ, the heart, yet throughout the entire year, we have little or no permission to pay attention to the psycho-spiritual “organ” we call “the heart.” During the month of February, however, it is acceptable to think about the physical organ by focusing on heart disease and to cautiously entertain the psycho-spiritual organ on Valentines Day by way of eating chocolate, having sex, and sending flowers.
By popular request, Parts 1-5 of the recent “What Collapse Feels Like Series” have been condensed and reprinted here.
What Collapse Feels Like, Part 5: Hijacking Joy: The Civilized Cerebesphere And New Age Nausea, By Carolyn Baker
Perhaps the last emotion a collapse-aware reader would expect to see in a series on “What Collapse Feels Like” would be joy. Fear, anger, grief, and despair yes, but not joy. Yet I believe we have every reason to expect that the end of life as we have known it will be attended by joy as much as by any other of the so-called “negative” emotions.
How do we occupy ourselves now, inwardly? How do we handle this emotionally and spiritually? The choice is each of ours. I handle the bad news the way I deal with all heartbreak; I feel the pain and let my heart break. I go into the dark, I let it all work on me, keep my eyes open down there, and let myself be transformed. The result? I emerge every time with more wisdom, more love, more care. Climate change reality is not different than embracing dying (if not our own then that of our children or grandchildren and others we care about). except that it is not only our own death but likely that of the majority of complex life forms and ecosystems as we know them. In other words, our hearts face breaking open as they never have before. Each of us is alive at the most unique time in all of human history because never have we imminently faced with such certainty the impending demise of so much at once. And this is poignant, any way you look at it. Poignancy is power. And the power we can all reap now is in our hearts, a passionately compassionate spiritual power made available by breaking…open.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian singer/songwriter who spent many years as a palliative care nurse. Her patients had gone home to die, but she was with them the last three to twelve weeks of their lives, and over the years, Ware noted the Top Five Regrets of The Dying which she compiled into a book. The regrets are striking because they reveal the factors that, regardless of one’s age or physical health, bring meaning and purpose to human lives, and those that do not. An examination of each regret may be useful as we consider our place in history and the collapse of industrial civilization in which we are now embroiled. Each regret has been seeded by the paradigm of civilization and reveals the ultimate fruits that are harvested as a result of allowing the paradigm to grow in our lives.
…our world is not broken, it is dead. We are alive, if we choose to be, but the hierarchical systems of exploitation that structure the world in which we live — patriarchy, capitalism, nationalism, white supremacy, and the industrial model — all are dead. It’s not just that they cannot be reformed, but that they cannot, and should not, be revived. The death-worship at the heart of those ideologies is exhausting us and the world, and the systems are running down. That means we have to create new systems, and in that monumental task, the odds are against us. What we need is not naïve hope but whatever it is that lies beyond naiveté, beyond hope.